Käthe Kollwitz, The Volunteers, sheet 2 of the series »War«, 1921/1922, woodcut, Kn 173 IV c, Cologne Kollwitz Collection © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

The second sheet in the series is in the tradition of medieval ›danses macabres‹ and representations of Death as a military leader and shows five young men following the figure of Death who beats a drum. The young men have been given different characteristic traits – some of them are carried away by death in passionate enthusiasm, others follow in blind loyalty or in despair.

A note on the margin on one of the proofs in the collection of the Käthe Kollwitz Museum shows that the figures represent Peter Kollwitz and his friends who fell in the war. Peter is the first to follow the figure of Death who tightly presses him to his side with his left arm. He was also the first to be killed in the war.

The faces of the young men and the beams of light emerging from their heads are intended to illustrate their emotional conviction that caused them to join the war. They were firmly convinced that they had to defend their Fatherland, even to sacrifice themselves.

PROOFS

Käthe Kollwitz, The Volunteers, sheet 2 of the series »War«, 1921/1922, woodcut, Kn 173 I, Cologne Kollwitz Collection © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

Käthe Kollwitz, The Volunteers, sheet 2 of the series »War«, 1921/1922, woodcut, Kn 173 I

Käthe Kollwitz, The Volunteers, sheet 2 of the series »War«, 1921/1922, woodcut, Kn 173 II, Cologne Kollwitz Collection © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

Käthe Kollwitz, The Volunteers, sheet 2 of the series »War«, 1921/1922, woodcut, Kn 173 II

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